You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Perhaps Love

More active as producer than director the past decade, Hong Kong's Peter Chan takes a big roll of the dice with "Perhaps Love," a Mainland-set romantic tuner with big, splashy numbers, a pan-Asian cast and a plot spun from candy floss.

With: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhou Xun, Jacky Cheung, Ji Jin-hee, Eric Tsang, Sandra Ng, Zhang Ming. (Mandarin, Cantonese dialogue)

More active as producer than director the past decade, Hong Kong’s Peter Chan takes a big roll of the dice with “Perhaps Love,” a Mainland-set romantic tuner with big, splashy numbers, a pan-Asian cast and a plot spun from candy floss. Handsomely lensed and designed, but less secure on the dramatic side, this melange of musical styles set in Shanghai’s filmdom faces an uphill task finding auds in the West, but should perform better in East Asia, where pic goes wide in early December.

Occasional attempts to revive the genre in Hong Kong have been more successful with de facto musicals like the 1989 “A Fishy Story” and 1995 “The Phantom Lover” rather than with clunkers like the dance drama, “Para Para Sakura” (2001). As a full-bore musical, “Perhaps Love” should prove a litmus test for the genre’s future, at least in China and Japan.

Aside from his foray into Hollywood (“The Love Letter,” 1999), this is Chan’s first full-length Chinese feature since “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” (1996). Aficionados of the helmer’s Hong Kong movies will spot many parallels with “Perhaps Love.”

Contrary to expectations, the pic isn’t a tribute to classic Mandarin musicals of the ’50s and ’60s: Chan’s reference points seem to be Western tuners like “Chicago,” “Sweet Charity” or “The Phantom of the Opera” more than old-time Shaw Brothers or Cathay musicals. At heart, “Perhaps Love” is a lightly tragic three-way love story about the forces that bind and separate people, similar in theme to earlier pics like “Comrades” or “Tom, Dick, and Hairy” (1993) but with a fantastical setting that recalls “The Age of Miracles” (1995).

In a device that isn’t properly developed beyond being a bookend, story is intro’d by a ringmaster-like figure called Montage (South Korean TV star Ji Jin-hee), who says he puts scenes back into people’s lives when they realize they’ve made the wrong choice. Circus-like atmosphere comes alive in a big opening number with artists and acrobats, all of which turns out to be from a movie being shot in a Shanghai studio.

Film’s helmer, Nie Wen (Jacky Cheung) is going through a crisis. The local press accuse him of selling out to offshore coin and having to use a Hong Kong star. More to the point, that star, Lin Jiandong (Takeshi Kaneshiro), is an old flame of the movie’s female lead, Sun Na (Zhou Xun), Nie’s protege and great love.

Sun is frosty when she meets Lin, and denies she ever knew him. But flashbacks tell the audience otherwise.

Pic shuttles back and forth between the present and past, mixing musical numbers from the movie being made with others in “real” life. Fearing a rebirth of his two stars’ love affair, Nie casts himself in the role of the movie’s circus manager, and “real” life and the movies start to become inextricably intertwined.

Basic weakness of Aubrey Lam and Raymond To’s script is the same as the film’s approach to its musical numbers: there’s no unifying style. Though the 12 musical sequences come thick and fast, the film also takes a while to find a proper rhythm, which isn’t helped by unnecessarily flashy editing in the first 45 minutes.

Still, from midpoint on, as Zhou and Kaneshiro are allowed more space, the central love story does start to engage, in quieter scenes that show Chan doing what he does best — playing the grace-notes in relationships rather than the major chords.

Mainland star Zhou (“Suzhou River,” “Baober in Love”) is especially good as the pixie-like Sun, nicknamed “Monkey.” The film benefits from casting leads who are singers as well as thesps. Though he’s dubbed into Mandarin for his dialogue scenes, Hong Kong’s Cheung sings robustly in his “Phantom”-like musical numbers — more so than Kaneshiro, who’s the weakest of the three vocally. Comedians Eric Tsang and Sandra Ng cameo as hardnosed H.K. exec producers.

Khan’s group choreography and Leon Ko’s antsy songs hit the bell most memorably in a standout sequence one hour in — hookers gyrating in an alleyway — that recalls not only “Big Spender” but also a riff on the same number in “A Fishy Story.” In general, however, Chan shows more aptitude in the more intimate musical numbers — often montages with voice and guitar accompaniment — than the bigger ones.

Tech package is fine, with Christopher Doyle’s lensing of wintry Beijing nicely contrasting with Peter Pau’s richer, warmer photography of the Shanghai-set sequences.

Perhaps Love

Hong Kong -Malaysia- China

Production: An Astro/Shaw (Malaysia)/Television Broadcasts (H.K.)/Stellar Megamedia Group (China) presentation, in association with Stellar Mega Film (Beijing), Shanghai Film Group Corp., China Film Co-Production Corp., of a Ruddy Morgan/Applause Pictures production. (International sales: Celestial Pictures, H.K.) Produced by Andre Morgan, Peter Chan. Executive producers, Morgan, Qin Hong, Ren Zhonglun. Co-producers, Zoe Chen, Hou Li. Directed by Peter Chan. Collaborating director, Samson Chiu. Screenplay, Aubrey Lam, Raymond To; additional dialogue, James Yuen, Jessica Fong.

Crew: Camera (Fujicolor), Peter Pau, Christopher Doyle (Beijing); editors, Wenders Li, Kong Chi-leung; music, Peter Kam; songs, Kam, Leon Ko; production designer, Yee Chung-man; art director, Pater Wong; art directors (Beijing), Lan Bin, Zhai Tao; costume designer, Dora Ng; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Kinson Tsang; digital effects, Oriental Post; choreographer, Farah Khan; action choreographer, Stephen Tung; associate producer, JoJo Hui; assistant directors, Felicia Tang, Lee Chiu-wah. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (non-competing, closer), Sept. 9, 2005. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: With: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhou Xun, Jacky Cheung, Ji Jin-hee, Eric Tsang, Sandra Ng, Zhang Ming. (Mandarin, Cantonese dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Captain Marvel' Lands Day-And-Date China Release

    'Captain Marvel' Lands Day-And-Date China Release

    Marvel Studios’ hotly-anticipated Brie Larson-starring blockbuster “Captain Marvel” will hit Chinese theaters on the same day as it debuts in North America. The female-led picture will release on March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day. Written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the film tells the story of Carol Danvers, a former fighter pilot who joins [...]

  • Peter Rabbit trailer

    Australia Box Office Recovers, Grows 3.8% in 2018

    Gross theatrical box office in Australia grew by 3.6% in 2018, to $890 million (A$1.25 billion). The score was propelled by a rebound in the performance of the top local films. Data from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia published Tuesday showed aggregate cinema revenues recovering after a dip in 2017. While the 2018 [...]

  • Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics

    Q&A: Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics While Hosting the SAG Awards

    Megan Mullally is funny. The “Will & Grace” star can also sing and dance. While she’s not picking up the Oscar hosting gig after the Kevin Hart fiasco, Mullally will take center stage on Sunday, Jan. 27 when she makes her debut as the host of the 25th annual SAG Awards. Variety caught up with [...]

  • Glass trailer

    'Glass': Five Box Office Takeaways From M. Night Shyamalan's Thriller

    With his fifth No. 1 box office opening, M. Night Shyamalan has plenty to celebrate. “Glass,” the conclusion to a trilogy that consists of the 2000 cult hit “Unbreakable” and 2016’s box office sensation “Split,” topped the box office last weekend — though its win comes with a few caveats. James McAvoy reprised his role [...]

  • Berlin: Patra Spanou Picks Up Panorama

    Berlin: Patra Spanou Picks Up Panorama Title 'Family Members' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Patra Spanou has picked up world sales rights to “Los miembros de la familia” (Family Members), which will world premiere in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section. Variety has been given an exclusive first look of the film’s trailer. The film is the second feature from writer/director Mateo Bendesky, and is produced by Agustina Costa [...]

  • Great Point Media, The Development Partnership

    Great Point Media, Development Partnership Join Forces on Slate of Movies

    Great Point Media and The Development Partnership, the development and production arm of the talent agency the Artists Partnership, are joining forces to develop, package, and co-produce multiple films, kicking off with three projects, including “Chasing Agent Freegard,” starring James Norton (“War & Peace”). “Chasing Agent Freegard,” which is being produced by “Captain Phillips” co-producer [...]

  • Berlin: FiGa Acquires ‘Landless,’ Drops ‘Hormigas’

    Berlin: FiGa Acquires ‘Landless,’ Drops ‘Hormigas’ Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sandro Fiorin’s Miami-based FiGa Films, a leading sales agent on the independent Latin American scene, has announced the acquisition of Brazilian doc “Landless,” and released a trailer for the Costa Rican-Spanish drama “El despertar de las hormigas.” Both features will play at this year’s Berlinale Forum and come from young Latin American filmmakers making their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content